How Spurs learned to stop worrying and just enjoy the team.
Tottenham Hotspur, when on song, are currently England’s best team. Fluent, potent and deep, they seem to play every game with a heartening combination of determined positivity and confident exuberance. Even Manchester City, in full flight, the league leaders since the early weeks, can rarely match the exhilaration that a Spurs attack provides. And it’s a winning feeling too, as recent years of improvement and consistency have resulted in the Lilywhites usurping local rivals Arsenal as the dominant team in North London, and with Chelsea’s diminishing returns, arguably in the capital altogether. Tottenham’s fanbase, notoriously neurotic but loyal to a fault, have long suffered the mixed results and mediocrity that had become a staple of their team for the last two decades - forever trying to regain the glory of the 1961 Double winning team and more recently, the pomp of the ‘91 vintage – featuring the talents of Gary Linekar, Paul Gascoigne, Paul Allen et al. Recent seasons have been most encouraging with a Carling Cup win over Chelsea, A first ever Champions’ League campaign last year, regular showings against Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea in the league, mixed in with the emergence of an eclectic yet entertaining team of eye catching purchases, youth and the odd loan import.
Spurs are most definitely back, and while the footballing jury is out (as opposed to the civil one, who most emphatically declared in his favour) on manager Harry Redknapp, there is no denying that his ways are working. It’s hard to say if Redknapp is a very good manager but he is definitely an effective one. Under him Spurs have grown in leaps and bounds ever since he replaced a floundering Juande Ramos, with Spurs, as Redknapp himself will remind you ad nauseum, in the relegation zone. Shrewd financial management under the ownership of Daniel Levy has always kept the club solvent and although they are one of the division’s bigger spenders, the acquisition and integration of the some of their latest talent has been exemplary.
This season, Emmanuel Adebayor’s loan arrival from Manchester City has been inspired, giving Spurs a powerful thrust up front and added flexibility at set pieces and on direct routes to goal. Scott Parker’s summer transfer from West Ham gave Tottenham one of the Premiership’s most consistent and talented performers while making a mockery of the midfield malaises at Manchester United and Liverpool, and at a pinch Arsenal and Chelsea. Last season Gareth Bale, who was brought in as an optimistic youth purchase several seasons prior, emerged to some effect and is one Europe’s most feared wingers, while Rafael Van Der Vaart gave Spurs an excellent attacking midfield match-winner, snatched again, from under the noses of the competition. Finally, Luka Modric, yet another of the endless supply of Croatian midfield maestros, has settled into English football with the panache and vigor expected of top class players and is delivering a clinic in passing every game. Not to mention, the return to form of Aaron Lennon, once England’s great hope on the right, so much so that David Beckham’s days in the national side seemed numbered.
Around them Spurs have assembled a solid supporting cast of good players and plucky over achievers, members of a team that seems hungry for silverware and determined to do the best they can. While the seemingly perennial hoodoo that they had at rivals Arsenal has been overcome, the balance of power has shifted from Ashburton Grove to White Hart Lane. Spurs may fancy a title charge this season and on current form, are just a blip of form, from the top two league leading Manchester clubs, away from achieving it. Harry wants us all to believe and on this evidence Spurs faithful are right in doing just that. Perhaps in due time the massive chips on their shoulders will also be whittled away and their feelings of inadequate achievement will pass. One cannot be petty whilst supporting a big club. Even if Redknapp leaves for a bigger, potentially international challenge, there is no shortage of cultured European managers who would be lining up to build on his legacy.
This team is here to stay.
An extremely heartwarming and dramatic end to the 2012 African Cup of Nations as Zambia beat heavily favoured Ivory Coast in the final, winning 8-7 on penalties. The Chipolopolo (Copper Bullets) Boys from Zambia, played a strong team game with touches of audacious attacking intent and calmness at both ends of the pitch, to lift Africa’s biggest footballing prize for the first time. What made the win even more special was the venue of the final itself. In 1993, Zambia’s greatest ever team, enroute to a crucial World Cup qualifier, tragically died in an air crash near Libreville, Gabon’s capital, with the plane crashing into the ocean and leaving no survivors. Although Zambian football emerged from the crash to reach the final of the 1994 AFCON, before losing 2-1 to Nigeria, the feelings of hurt and loss will linger forever. How fitting then, that the 2012 triumph occurred only a few hundred metres inland from the crash site no doubt easing some of the sorrow felt by the nation. Their win was, as expected, dedicated to the ones who lost their lives in the tragedy. Zambia football has been on the cusp of something great for a few years now, and has emerged as one of the dark horses from the continent altogether.
Arjblog will talk more about the Zambian team in the coming weeks.